EL PASO – At noon on a recent Saturday, 16-year-old Jasmin Flores sits at a round table in a downtown storefront gallery and stares at a picture of a man wearing a tee shirt raising his two fists into the air. After thinking for a few minutes, she uses her imagination to write in longhand on a piece of paper a story about two boys playing together with a ball.
These and many other activities are practiced each Saturday during a “ForWord” workshop that helps teenage students develop their creativity when writing from short stories to essays.
Flores is been attending the workshops, sponsored by a local non profit organization, since the January sessions started. She said each workshop has been different. “We practice dialogue and one activity always will be tied to another one. We free our brains all the time; there are no set rules just our creativity,” said Flores.
ForWord is a community project in El Paso created by BorderSenses. This program is offered to students who live in the community, are between the ages of 13-19, and are interested in learning some of the techniques of creative writing.
“If you are interested in writing you should definitely join us,” said Flores. “Even those who are not interested in writing for the future, it will definitely help (them) improve in school. Honestly, it has helped me with my essays, with my creative writing class, my structure, grammar, and even with my personal life,” said Flores, one of the most regular attendees at Glasbox Studios, who is interested in writing Realistic Fiction.
Bodersenses is a literary magazine but it is also an organization that sponsors several writing projects including the book Memorias del Silencio, Barbed Wire, Raíces and ForWord.
The literary organization provides opportunities for visual artists and writers of the region interested in learning and gaining technical art and writing skills. The organization’s website says, “We provide a venue of artistic growth that helps improve the quality of life for our communities.”
ForWord Project Director Yasmin Ramirez says the BorderSenses magazine and other publications promote writers and artists from El Paso and the rest of the country. “It gives us a spotlight on the artistic community in El Paso,” Ramirez said.
“This is our first year,” she said about the ForWord project. “We started in September and we offer ForWord (workshops) in block sessions, four times a year in two months. We are trying to let the community know and spread the word.
“The reason I started doing this is because I was in creative writing in high school and I didn’t have a lot of outlets or I didn’t know where to go just to get a little bit more help with my writing,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez is also the instructor-facilitator at Glasbox Studios and at Jefferson High School. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology but is finishing her master’s degree in creative writing, her true passion. She also teaches Introduction to Creative Writing at The University of Texas at El Paso.
“A lot of the exercises I do with my UTEP students are the same,” she says. “I just alter a little bit for the kids here at Glasbox. It is kind of nice when I tell the kids here that what I’m teaching them it is kind of the same thing I’m teaching college students. That gives them also a brief idea of what college can be like.”
One of her favorite exercises is to have her students use their imagination by giving them a sentence and asking them to expand it using their creativity and adding details such as who what, where, when. One of the most important aspect of writing are the details whether in writing an essay or creative writing,” she said.
EPCC Student Perla Ramirez, 19, who is not related to Yasmin Ramirez, said her first day at the workshop was very enjoyable. “It makes me experience my writing by finding ideas for sentences, and it will definitely help make my essays more descriptive than before,” Perla said.
Yasmin Ramirez says that most students suffer from writer’s block, but the writing exercises help them build a small body of work and also show them how a writing prompt can quickly turn into a full piece.
“All the students are encouraged to submit their work for the ForWord chapbook which will be released in August this year,” said Ramirez.
ForWord is currently hosting workshops in three different locations: at Jefferson High School in an after school program, at the EPCC Northwest Campus Library every Saturday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and at Glasbox Studios, 1500 Texas Avenue, every Saturday from 11a.m.-1p.m.
Lacy Mayberry is the instructor in EPCC Northwest. “We both focus on creative writing and our specialty is short story. We practice technique, tone, imagery, details, and things like that,” said Ramirez.
Both the EPCC and Glaxbox sessions started April 6 and end May 25. Another workshop will be offered in the month June at the EPCC Northwest Campus.
“I like to write,” says director Ramirez. “That’s always the first thing. If you like to write that’s great but you have to go further. It’s kind of like track – you have to practice and train. I think the workshop is a great thing to do on a Saturday morning for free.”
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